Psychologist’s ‘irrelevant testimony’ at Jacob Hoggard’s trial should not have been admitted: lawyers

Lawyers representing Jacob Hoggard say “irrelevant” testimony from a clinical psychologist at the sexual assault trial for the former Hedley frontman should never had been admitted and are asking that a new trial be ordered, according to a filing with the Ontario Court of Appeal.

In 2022, a jury found Hoggard guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm in connection with an assault on a woman in a Toronto hotel room on Nov. 22, 2016.

During the trial, a court heard that Hoggard met the woman, whose identity is protected under a court-ordered publication ban, through Tinder. The two later arranged for her to travel from Ottawa to Toronto to meet for sex, according to testimony given at trial.

The woman told the court that once inside the hotel room, Hoggard “became a completely different person” and a “complete psychopath,” choking her and raping her repeatedly.

Hoggard, who denied the allegations and claimed that the sex was consensual, was found guilty by a jury in June of 2022. Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts sentenced Hoggard to five years in prison and he is currently out on bail pending the outcome of his appeal.

Hoggard had also been charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and sexual interference in connection with a teenage complainant, but he was acquitted of those charges.

In written arguments filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this month, his lawyers argued that the trial judge “committed several errors” in admitting the evidence of Dr. Lori Haskell, a clinical psychologist who was the first to testify at the sexual assault trial.

“…the trial judge permitted Dr. Haskell to give the jury a generic ‘science lesson’ on the neurobiology of trauma so long as she did not link the evidence to the complainants, neither of whom she assessed,” the lawyers wrote.

“The relevance of this evidence, however, assumed the existence of the very traumatic events at issue in the trial — namely, the alleged sexual assaults. Unless the jury assumed Hoggard was guilty, Dr. Haskell’s evidence was irrelevant. It should never have been admitted.”

His lawyers went on to say that trial judges have “long instructed juries” about how people react differently to traumatic events.

“By dressing up common sense with the cloak of expertise, Dr. Haskell’s evidence risked overwhelming the jury’s deliberation process,” they argued.

“Juries do not need science lessons on familiar phenomena like the fight, flight, and freeze reactions described by Dr. Haskell. Admitting such evidence usurps their role. Juries are trusted to draw conclusions about high-stress life-or-death scenarios based on life experience and common sense.”

Hoggard’s lawyers said there was “undue focus” placed on the expert testimony, a fact they say was acknowledged by Justice Roberts during the trial.

“In this case, the risk of prejudice was realized despite multiple instructions from the trial judge aimed at mitigating it,” Hoggard’s lawyers wrote.

They said when the jury requested a readback of Haskell’s evidence, the judge refused after she “properly inferred” from their questions that “the jury was trying to use the expert evidence for a diagnostic purpose.”

“While she gave a corrective instruction, it cannot be inferred that this cured the problem,” the lawyers wrote.

“The trial judge’s reluctance to let the jury rehear evidence she had admitted illustrates its toxic potential and the unreasonableness of admitting it.”

One of the lawyers representing Hoggard confirmed to CP24.com that a hearing date has not been set. The Crown has not responded to CP24’s request for comment.

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